Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Lesson in Civic Courage

As reported in the 23 September edition of The Daily World, Quinault Indian Nation -- located on the central coast of Washington state -- is leading the challenge against IRS rules that illegally seek to tax tribal cultural practices of sharing tribal wealth with members in need. Once known as potlatch, sharing as a communal cultural practice, along with singing and dancing, was outlawed by the U.S. Government between the 1880s and 1950s.

Viewed as a key way of destroying indigenous communities in Washington and British Columbia, both Canada and the US sentenced Indian offenders to prison. Now, in the 21st century, the U.S. Treasury Department has again set out to destroy Indian tribes by banning sharing through the coercive method of taxation. While this aggression by the IRS is in clear violation of the U.S. Constitution and international law, Treasury knows full well that taxing tribal wealth is one way of usurping tribal governance on reservations, and thus preventing tribes from taxing corporations that have long ripped them off, extracting resources on reservations without paying a fair share.

As a form of intimidation, this latest exercise of coercion by the IRS has instilled fear in many American Indian tribes; the refusal to be intimidated, demonstrated last week by the Quinault and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians -- an organization of 52 tribal governments -- is a lesson in civic courage we should all applaud.

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